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Exclusive Martina Navratilova interview - Edited transcript

martinawimbledon
 
June 18, 2012
 
Material on the Laureus website is available for print media use free of charge provided full credit is given, for example….’Martina Navratilova speaking to Laureus.com’
 
Question:
You do not play on the regular tour any more, but do you miss it?
 
Martina Navratilova:
Not at all.  I mean if I could play I would, but I have too much going on in my life. I have moved on.  I enjoy watching them when they are competing and of course you go back to how it felt for you when you were in that position, but my life is so relaxed now. I don’t need that stress.  I had my time and that was enough. 
 
Question:
What do you think of the state of women’s tennis today? 
 
Martina Navratilova:
It is getting better, but we need stars and the biggest stars are either retired or have not played that much. There are health issues. Serena [Williams] has been a part time player at best. I had big hopes for her at the French Open and she lost in the first round, but to me she is still a favourite for Wimbledon.
Maria Sharapova came through, completing the Grand Slam by winning the French Open and has been one of the biggest names now for almost ten years, but women’s tennis still needs stars and it is hard to make stars when we have different winners all the time.
Li Na wins the French Open, big star in China of course, but then she has not done
anything since. Petra Kvitova won Wimbledon and the WTA Champions, but she has had a very mediocre year this year.  Nobody has kind of grabbed the ball. I mean Azarenka finally won the Grand Slam event at the Australian Open, won three tournaments after that, then nothing after that.  We do not have the consistency at the top.
I think women’s tennis is in great shape, but it will be nice to have some rivalries developing and we do not quite have that at the moment.
 
Question:
There used to be rivalries: Navratilova v Evert and Margaret Court v Billie-Jean King; the men’s game at the moment has that.  It has massive matches, one minute it is Nadal v Federer then it is Nadal v Djokovic. Why is there a difference?
 
Martina Navratilova:
It’s just the sporting cycle. When it was Chris [Evert] and me there was a flux in the men’s game.  You had McEnroe, you had Becker, you had Borg, you had Connors, but it did not sustain itself.  There were a lot of stars, but nobody really dominated for a long period.
Now, of course, you have had Nadal v Federer for five or six years and now it has become Djokovic v Nadal. So now you have three of the greatest men’s players that ever played the sport playing at the same time.
 
Question:
You really rate these guys as three of the greatest tennis players of all time? 
 
Martina Navratilova:
I think Djokovic, if he keeps going like he has been, will be up there and certainly Nadal and, well, Federer is considered the greatest with Rod Laver. Federer [at the moment] may be [considered] the greatest of all time, but Nadal may be the better player between the two of them!  So it is just an astonishing time in men’s tennis.
 
Question:
Sharapova has now won all the four Grand Slams by the age of 25. You were 27 when you achieved that. How many more Grand Slams can she go on and win?
 
Martina Navratilova:
Well Maria Sharapova is 25. I won two Slams at that age.  She now has four, so she is ahead of my pace, but can she sustain it in the next five years?  She has been through a lot, an amazing story with her coming back after shoulder surgery that [would have made] most people retire. Or most certainly would not come back to where they were before. 
It is an amazing accomplishment physically and mentally, and then emotionally. It is one thing to rehab your shoulder, but to overcome the mental obstacles where she had issues with her service motion, with the technique, the toss all over the place and double faulting – well, she stuck with it and she got over it and now her serve is a weapon and she is back to No 1.
I mean it is an amazing, amazing story, and she is 25, so again if she stays healthy, there is no telling how much she can win.  She has improved a lot, she has much better footwork.  She used to say she moved like a cow on ice when she played on clay, it certainly did not look like it in Paris.  She improved, last year she was better, this year miles better, and it paid off.  So there is no telling.  If she stays hungry, she has got a bunch of Slams in her I think.
 
Question:
Do you think Petra Kvitova can win Wimbledon again?
 
Martina Navratilova:
Petra does play an attacking game. She is very forceful from the base line of course, and when there is an opportunity to come to the net she comes to the net more than Sharapova or even Serena Williams. I would still like to see her more aggressive. For Petra it is always a matter of missing or making the shots. If she makes them she could on a given day beat anybody.
 
Question:
So you have also mentioned that Serena is still in there for Wimbledon this year.  Sharapova seems to have got her game back and is mentally strong.  Kvitova you say could win again.  So how do you see this year’s tournament going? 
 
Martina Navratilova:
Well I think Azarenka is going to come out of the gates and she will be pretty upset about how things were in Paris, she was just in a bad mood the whole time, I do not know what happened to her, but she should like the grass and become more athletic in how she plays the game on the surface. It should suit her pretty nicely. And she only lost last year to Petra [Kvitova] in the semi-final. It was the closest match.
And Sharapova, of course, will be confident after the French Open, but Serena Williams has a winning record with everybody, so if Serena gets through the first week, and if she is healthy, I think she is the person to beat.  She has got the biggest serve in the game – the biggest serve in the sport - so she will be hard to beat
and her confidence will grow as she progresses. So, unless she loses early, I think she is going to be the person to watch out for the most.
Sam Stosur won the U.S. Open last year. Her game should be the best for grass, but she has an abysmal record. She has lost more matches than she has won, 9-5, on grass. She has no confidence on the grass.  So, as good as she should be, she needs to go and convince herself that she is playing on clay and she will be OK. Stosur should be a force, but she has not been.  I hope that she turns it around this year. 
 
Question:
Coming back to the men for Wimbledon, there seems to be a rigid top four now?
 
Martina Navratilova:
Well I see that as the top three. Andy Murray is not in the mix, I mean he gets to the semi-finals. He’s been to a couple of finals, but Djokovic, Nadal and Federer are head and shoulders above everybody else. You saw that in the French Open. Those guys are just playing on another level.  Andy Murray is a close fourth, a very solid fourth, but the top three are just head and shoulders above everybody else. 
 
Question:
Do you see Murray winning a Grand Slam at some point?
 
Martina Navratilova:
Well I think he was closer to it last year and at the Australian Open I thought Andy played very well, and I thought Ivan Lendl [his coach] has made a big difference in his game, and an even bigger one in his attitude. He was head and shoulders above where he was before, with his attitude and his composure on the court, so much better, and he played so much better because of it.
Does he have a Grand Slam [in him]. Does he have enough time for it?  Absolutely.  But he is coming up against very good guys. I just do not know if it can happen now because Nadal and Djokovic are just playing better, no matter how good [Murray’s] attitude is, they are just playing better balls. 
It is a bigger gulf for him than it was for Tim Henman. He did not have the capability and he was also in the same era as Pete Sampras, the greatest grass court player that played the game.
 
Question:
Of course there are two Wimbledons this year, there’s the Olympic Games. Do you  ever see the Olympics matching a tennis Grand Slam? 
 
Martina Navratilova:
I think most players would prefer to win Wimbledon than an Olympic medal. You should ask them, but for me that would definitely be the case. But the Olympics have
been growing and growing, so it is a big deal and now the players have an opportunity to repeat it at Wimbledon, it is amazing.
 
Question:
It has been an important year for Laureus with the total number of community sports projects around the world going over 100?
 
Martina Navratilova:
Yes, so the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, which I was trying to raise money by failing to climb Mt Kilimanjaro a few years ago, has raised over €55 million since 2000 and now we are over 100 projects, which is great. The US Laureus Foundation is really raising its profile and we have so many more projects happening. Over a million-and-a-half kids in this time have been helped in a positive way.  So the numbers are just growing. That is something all my fellow Laureus Academy Members are really proud of. 
 
Question:
You took part in Dancing with the Stars earlier this year. How did that happen?
 
Martina Navratilova
Well Dancing with the Stars was really a way for me to inspire people over 50 to get outside their comfort zone and do more with their life. I am an ambassador for AARP, which is an organisation in America for people who are over 50, and I am always encouraging people to do more and get outside their comfort zone. And for me dancing in high heels in front of a lot of people is about as far outside my comfort zone as I can get. I would feel more comfortable in outer space doing a space walk.
I loved every minute of it, it was absolutely terrifying doing the dance itself.  In tennis when you miss a shot, you control your emotion and you can re-set and start the next point, in dancing, when you miss a step, you still have to keep smiling and you have to keep going. You do not get to say ‘OK, I get to start over again’ 
So it was a completely different experience, but I loved the training, and actually I think dancing is a great sport for older people to do, because it is a great activity for your mind and your body.  But I would also totally recommend it if I was
coaching the kids. I would mandate dancing, maybe one, or two, three hours a week.  Great exercise for controlling your body, core control, mind control and knowing exactly what every body part is doing, and it opens everything up.  In tennis everything scrunches up, in dancing it opens everything up, so it makes you walk tall, it makes you more balanced, trains the core and stretches all the muscles.  So I would totally recommend it.
I will keep dancing, I will definitely keep taking lessons.  I have done some classes where I improve my stretching and posture and I will, as soon as I do not travel as much, look into regular dance class.  I love it.
 
Question:
Which is more difficult, trying to climb Mt Kilimanjaro or taking part in Dancing with the Stars? 
 
Martina Navratilova:
Well you cannot possibly die dancing. So I would say Kilimanjaro was tougher!